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Say Goodbye to Susan and 16 Other Baby Name Standbys

May 15, 2019 laurawattenberg 1 Comment

Say Goodbye to Susan and 16 Other Baby Name Standbys

May 15, 2019 LauraWattenberg 1 Comment
Susan B. Anthony and Susan Sarandon
Susan B. Anthony and Susan Sarandon. Images: Wikimedia Commons

Not every name has the style strength to stick around for generations. This year we say goodbye to 17 of those long-lasting names, as they have dropped off the top-thousand popularity lists for the first time in at least 50 years. In a few cases, it was the first time ever.

I guarantee that some of the departed names will surprise you—either by their disappearance, or by their longevity. They’re a diverse group that together helped shape the sound of the country.

In ascending order of popularity life span:

#17: Kenya (F, top thousand since 1968)
The name of an East African nation, Kenya was among the first of a wave of Afro-centric names that reflected growing interest and pride in African-American heritage. It also proved to be one of the most lasting.

#16: Angelique (F, 1964)
In the 1960s, Angela was the height of fashion and French names like Monique and Danielle were coming on strong. A French film series and a Dark Shadows soap opera character called Angelique sealed the deal.

#15: Courtney (F, 1962)
 Courtney was one of a group of -y surnames that ruled the ’80s and ’90s. (Think Ashley, Whitney, Lindsay). Courtney’s decline has been swift; it still ranked #59 among all girls’ names in the year 2000.

#14: Désirée (F, 1954)
The 1954 historical drama Désirée starred Jean Simmons as the titular French woman, opposite—picture this—Marlon Brando as Napoleon Bonaparte. The film soon faded from memory, but the name didn’t.

#13: Shaun (M, 1953)
In the ’50, the name Sean was a fresh new import and some parents worried it wouldn’t be pronounced right. A wave of phonetic Shauns and Shawns ensued. Actor Shaun Cassidy made this spelling especially popular two decades later.

#12: Kristina (F, 1945)
It wasn’t just Kristina. It was Kristen, Crystal, Christine, Krista, and dozens more. The Kris brigade began its rise in the 1940s and ultimately conquered the 1970s and ’80s.

#11: Kenny (M, 1929)
Cue the “They killed Kenny!” jokes now. This is the kind of All-American nickname that all of America has stopped using. A newborn is now more likely to be named Kensington or Kenzo than Kenny.

#10: Brenda (F, 1929)
Brenda was the fresh young sound of its time. It became hugely popular a decade after its debut thanks to headline-making socialite Brenda Frazier, and comics character “Brenda Starr, Reporter,” who was named after her.

#9: Carla (F, 1926)
The name Carla is used in half a dozen languages, and started out with a continental flair. Carla became so popular in the US that it lost that association, but you can still hear it in the male name Carlo.

#8: Santos (M, 1916)
Santos is Spanish for “saints,” a classic name of reverence. Unlike many of the names on this list, it’s not tied to any particular era. It has been a slow but steady presence, and only missed this year’s top-thousand list by a single baby.

#7: Craig (M, 1912)
A Scottish surname, Craig comes from the same root as the word “crag.” It hit its peak in the 1960s along with other craggy names like Scott and Keith.

#6: Vaughn (M, 1898)
This smooth Welsh name pulled off a neat balancing trick for generations. It was never very popular and ranked below #900 in a dozen different years, but never quite slipped out of the top 1000 until now.

#5: Lamar (M, 1891)
Lamar is an old and courtly surname associated with the South. Its last-syllable stress has put it out of step with white American naming patterns in the past generation, and it has slowly declined as an African-American name as well.

…and finally, four which had been top-thousand names as far back as national baby name statistics go (1880). In ascending order of total popularity:

#4: Darrell (M)
Picture a 19th-century gent with an elegant surname-based name, one that came to England with the Normans. If you’re not picturing the name Darrell, blame a mid-29th-century wave of Darrells and Darryls that tied the name to that era.

#3: Micheal (M) & #2: Jessie (M)
Look closely at the spellings and you’ll see why I grouped these two together. They’re alternate spellings of the biblical classics Michael and Jesse, which are both still popular but declining.

#1: Susan (F)
Susan is a true-blue women’s classic, from Jane Austen (the short novel Lady Susan) to the suffrage movement (activist Susan B. Anthony) to a huge 20th-century wave that made Susan a top-10 name of an entire generation. Comedians even use the name as a stand-in for a generic woman, because it’s seen as so ubiquitous. Not anymore.


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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1 Comment

  • Ashley Murphy December 21, 2021 at 2:19 am

    Love your blogs! Just a note: you’ve got a typo here. Mid-29th century should be 20th century.

    You’re a treasure and I love all your blogs.

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